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MONTHLY FISHING TIPS
January: In most of the walleye world, January means ice fishing with ice thickness from a few inches in the southern range to a few feet in the north. I like to fish a narrow spoon like the Hopkins or Swedish Pimple and tip the hook with a small minnow or minnow tail. I usually fish deep 20-40 feet during the day and move into the shallows at night, rigging live shiners on tip-ups off of points, sometimes as shallow as four feet. Ice conditions can change during a January thaw, so be careful!
February: Ice fishing for walleyes slows down this time of year, but the rivers are starting to heat up. Winter fish will stage below dams and in deep holes downstream. My best method this time of year is vertical jigging with a quarter ounce OddíBall Jig tipped with a medium fathead minnow. I especially like to work the edges of sandbars in depths between 12-20 feet.
March: Ice fishing is hot, but ice conditions can be iffy. Walleyes are staging at river mouths and can be easily caught with jigs and minnows. This is the time when ice anglers have some of their best fishing. Iíll often fish the channel edges coming into a lake being ever mindful of the thinning ice. If open water exists, Iíll put the boat in and jig close to the ice and work the first couple of holes upstream from the lake. The winter fish will also begin to move into prespawn areas in late March. Look for them to be near rock and gravel bars or shorelines.
April: Walleyes now run the gamut from pre-spawn to post-spawn. This is a great time to catch shallow fish staging on gravel and rocks. The males will be there most of the month, so that makes for great fishing. Iíll cast an eighth-ounce OddíBall jig tipped with a fathead or shiner into two feet of water, then jig it down the gravel or rocky break. I like using 8# test mono or 6# powerbraid for this presentation as it really telegraphs the bite. In early April, expect the bigger females to be staging outside of the spawining areas in deeper water. In rivers, they are often downstream in the first deep hole. Vertical jigging is the best way to catch them. These spots will also produce in post-spawn as the fish begin moving back to the lake.
May: My favorite walleye month because the fish are usually in the shallows chasing baitfish. That means they can be caught casting crankbaits; one of my favorite ways to fish. Iíll look for flooded timber, emerging shallow weeds and sandbar breaks where walleyes come to feed. I cast a Shad Rap over the weeds and along the brushline where the active fish just explode on the bait. You have to be careful, though, thereís an awful lot of bass and pike that have the same idea! Favorite crank colors are crawdad and firetiger. Of course, these fish can also be jigged, and Iíll often use the crank to locate them, then slow down and work Ďem over with jigs tipped with half-crawlers or leeches. This is also the time for casting or vertical jigging Hopkins Spoons along weededges and sharp breaks.
June: The waterís warming up and the fish are more active than ever. Often walleyes can be found shallow, deep and everywhere in between. On my home lake of Lake Winnebago, walleyes are moving into the weeds, feeding on shallow, rock reefs and suspending out in the main lake. This is a good time to catch them shallow in the weeds, where Iíll fish a sixteenth ounce Slo-Poke or OddíBall tipped with a leech or crawler. I like these two jigs because they are both molded on Mustad Ultra-Point hooks, which wonít bend like a cheap wire hook. Thatís important when fishing weeds. If the weeds are thick, Iíll use 10 pound test monofilament; eight pound works fine in thinner weeds. Six pound powerbraid will also help cut the weeds when a hooked fish tears through it. I simply look for openings in the weeds and flip the jig into it, let it fall to the bottom, then slowly swim it back, letting it free fall from time to time. Itís fun fishing, but takes lots of concentration.
July: The hot weather is upon us and itís time to either troll the main basin or fish the deep edges. I like to troll the basin (if the fish are going good) with Shad Raps or Husky Jerks, rigging them 120 feet behind planer boards. With two people in the boat, I can fish four rods at a time, running two shallow and two deep, changing colors until I hit on what the fish want. Iíll always run one crankbait only 30 feet behind the side planer for those fish that are suspended really high. If that one starts catching more than the rest, Iíll then switch the other ones over. Every lake that has a suspended forage in summer will have suspended walleyes. These are often the largest fish in the lake as well. Planers and crankbaits are a deadly combination for these hard-to-catch summertime walleyes.
August: As the weather continues to get hot and the water warmer, walleyes will begin to seek relief in cooler water. That means they will be deep and rigging with livebait becomes the best way to catch them. Iíll look for these fish by graphing the deep water off of mainlake points or deep water humps. Once I find some good hooks on the graph, Iíll stop and fish them. My rig of choice is a slip sinker rig with a five foot lead. Iíll use a 1/0 Mustad Neon hook in chartreuse or red and attach a six-inch redtail, bluetail, creek chub, shiner or sucker minnow, usually in that order of preference. Sometimes these fish are as deep as 65 feet, but they still bite. The big chub will often keep the smaller fish off the line, but not always, so have plenty on hand. Iíve also done well with whole nightcrawlers on the same rig, but chubs seem to be a more consistent fish-getter.
September: Often a month of transition, September can still be a good walleye month, especially if early Autumn temperatures begin to cool the water. In the Canadian Shield lakes, most fish will be deep on rockpiles and humps where they can be rigged or jigged. In shallower lakes, expect to find them hanging around the few remaining weedbeds or moving up on shallow reefs to fatten up for winter. September has always been a ďsleeperĒ month for walleyes because of the ďturnoverĒ period and people just not fishing as much now that summer is over. But Iíve found it to be a great month to fish. No crowds on the lake and still great weather! Plus, the fish are biting!
October: Walleyes begin a fall movement into the rivers, making for some really hot fishing. It is similar to late March, and they tend to stage in the same spots. While most anglers concentrate their efforts below dams, I like to work the holes downstream, as well as traditional spawning areas. Jig and minnows are my best baits at this time, but casting cranks is still very effective along rip-rapped shorelines and gravel bars. I usually use crawdad colored crankbaits in the shallows and deep Husky Jerks if Iím working down a break. Iíll retrieve the crankbait with a stop and reel technique, with the fish usually hitting the crank when it stops.
November: This is big walleye time because the cisco are spawning and the big fish are fattening up on them for the winter. I like catching walleyes by vertically jigging hammered silver Hopkins Spoons or Deep Willow spoons in the ĺ ounce size. Iíll look for these big fish near cisco spawning areas, which are sand or pea gravel shorelines. Since they have all the food they need, the flash of the spoon often triggers and strike when live bait wonít. Once again, Iíll go to traditional spawning areas for both the cisco and walleye, which is often the same place. The big fish will usually be deep, at least 20 or more feet, during the day and I will jig right over them. Sometimes a jig and chub will also do the trick on these cold weather hogs. If ever there was a time to take a trophy walleye, this is it. Oh yeah, for you trolling buffs, big cranks are working too!
December: Up north the ice is forming and the first brave guys out there are catching lots of fish. First ice is always good, as the walleyes are still stacked on their mid-lake humps and can be caught during the day on jigging spoons. In the evening, the fish move into the shallows and up on points to feed where they can be jigging or fished on tip-ups in shallower water. Where the rivers are still open, die-hard boat anglers are still catching walleyes by vertical jigging a jig/minnow along the current breaks.